A LOT OF TIME has been spent on radio and television, as well as a lot of column inches, during the last several weeks on Garth Brooks’ visit to Ireland, which has packed Croke Park for five nights.

400,000+ tickets have been sold, which is unprecedented. The country music phenomenon may have been lucky in that the great majority of copies were acquired before the depth of the cost of living issue became widely understood, and penny-pinching became unavoidable.

On the other hand, the Oklahoma native is so well-known in the United States that attending one or more of his performances may have been the only treat or birthday/Christmas gift that folks splurged on. Indeed, most of the media attention has centred on the same question: Why is Garth Brooks so popular in this country?

Please enrol me

This will be handled later. First, a confession: I am not immune to his attractions. I sat at my phone for four hours on the morning tickets became available before purchasing a pair for tonight’s show. Based on the several favourable evaluations so far, my wife and I are in for a tremendous treat.

I’m not a die-hard fan; I can’t claim to know every song he’s ever recorded. However, I am familiar with and enjoy many of his songs. And I’ll join tens of thousands of others in the audience in singing along to “The River,” “That Summer,” “Unanswered Prayers,” “Friends in Low Places,” and other songs when Garth emerges on a big stage about 7:30 p.m. My wife is a more casual watcher, and she will be among the thousands of others who will be there to experience a rare event and have fun.

Garth Brooks is obviously a hugely popular musician in his own country. He is said to be worth $400,000,000. Earning so much money and achieving legendary status has enabled him to take at least two career detours: a brief attempt to play professional baseball and the creation of a pop-rock record under the alias Chris Gaines.

Brooks has had a hugely important, even revolutionary, effect on country music, in addition to earning a lot of money and winning a slew of honours. Perhaps to the chagrin of purists, he deviated from several genre norms. By doing so, he contributed to increase its audience. There are currently country music stations in locations such as Boston that are far from the state’s geographic centre. Nonetheless, they have a sizable and devoted following.

A public figure

Garth Brooks is a cultural icon, even according to his opponents. Given his celebrity in a society where celebrities are adored, he can use his “soft power” to influence the thoughts of a sizable number of Americans.

As a result, on the day Joe Biden was inaugurated in 2021, following the tremendously upsetting events of January 6th, Garth Brooks was, in my opinion, the second most important person on Capitol Hill, behind the brand new President of the United States. When I made this argument on RTÉ, my other panellists were amused, and the response on Twitter varied from amusement to derision.

However, I stand by it. For Garth Brooks, in his background, accent, clothes, mannerisms, and songs, he is generally typical of Middle America. He comes from a very conservative neighbourhood. Although there are no numbers to back it up, and his crossover appeal is evident, I have a strong sense that Brooks’ most ardent supporters are “MAGA Republicans.”